Well Wadda Know?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Well Wadda Know?

Ed Whelan asks Are You an Originalist? and gives us a simple quiz to help us find out
Here's my simple single-question multiple-choice test for whether you are an originalist:

Q. The Constitution provides, as one of the criteria to be eligible to become president, that a person must be a "natural born Citizen" (or, alternatively, in a provision that long ago ceased to apply to any living persons, "a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution") How would you figure out what the phrase "natural born Citizen" means?

(A) You would determine that the "natural born Citizen" requirement, whatever it means, is obviously a relic of a benighted and xenophobic past, a past that "evolving standards of decency," as reflected in modern European electoral practices, requires be abandoned. It simply isn't fair, you would conclude, that any candidates should be excluded by such an arbitrary requirement from running for president. You would invoke "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" as you instead substituted your own arbitrary criteria for eligibility.

(B) You would try to discern the current meaning of the phrase "natural born Citizen." Its closest connection would appear to be to the concept of natural childbirth. Therefore, you would conclude that only those whose mothers did not use drugs during birth satisfy the requirement.

(C) You would look to literature as your guide. Macbeth finds great comfort in the promise that "none of woman born/Shall harm" him. But his comfort proves unwarranted when Macduff, who "was from his mother's womb/Untimely ripp'd," kills Macbeth. It follows that anyone whose birth was by Cesarean section is not a "natural born Citizen."

(D) You would try to determine the public meaning of the "natural born Citizen" requirement at the time that the Constitution was adopted.
I choose "D."
If it is obvious to you that the proper response is (D), then you are an originalist. If you think that the answer might be (A), then you are probably Justice Stevens, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, or Breyer.
Yay, I won!

I must be an originalist.

I guess that Bush's right wing base will now support my nomination to serve on the Supreme Court.

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